How Does Cancel Culture Impact Students?

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Students these days have the extraordinary power--literally in the palm of their hands--to publicly call out injustice via social media. But what about when it gets personal and individuals are called out and “canceled”?  In our latest episode of Above the Noise, Myles investigates the difference between “calling out” and “calling in” and talks with high schoolers about the pros and cons of taking personal grievances public.

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

What is cancel culture?

Cancel culture has been around for a long time. When have people not disagreed or challenged each other’s thoughts? As we know it today, canceling is about holding powerful people accountable for what they say and do. At least, in theory, much of its media coverage and attention revolves around whether canceling is more about accountability or online shaming of the accused.

What’s cancel culture's impact on students?

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Students usually aren’t big-name celebrities, so when they cancel each other it’s usually about taking personal conflicts onto a public platform. That can have lasting impacts on both the accuser and the accused. Both might have their mental health affected, as the accuser may be forced to relive the trauma by having to bring up the conflict publicly, or the potential for the scandal to follow both parties well beyond when the incident happened. And both the accuser and accused may feel ostracized by their peers and research shows that this social rejection from peers can lead to academic struggles, low self-esteem, and a “decrease in prosocial behaviors.”

What are alternatives to canceling someone?

We spoke with students who’ve both seen cancel culture at their schools and were curious to know if there is a way to get people to take responsibility for hurting someone without putting them on blast on social media. Reflection, patience, and seeking support (when ready) are all tools, says Kaidence Pacheo, a student who has gone through a restorative justice program at their school. However, not all schools have these resources, so these alternatives may have to start from the individual educating themselves and reflecting on the power that the Internet has in amplifying these callouts. They can also begin looking at the bigger picture and interrogating the systems that allow for these wrongdoings to happen in the first place.

SOURCES

Americans and ‘Cancel Culture’: Where Some See Calls for Accountability, Others See Censorship, Punishment

What Students Are Saying About Cancel Culture, Friendly Celebrity Battles and Finding Escape

Tales From the Teenage Cancel Culture

The Second Wave of “Cancel Culture”

Causes and Consequences of Social Exclusion and Peer Rejection Among Children and Adolescents